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Jessica was finishing her third year of grad school when she finally decided she had had enough.
Funding had gotten tighter, and her PI had basically checked out. Many of her lab-mates saw the writing on the wall, and left their projects behind to find other work. With no support from her advisor or peers, she had little hope of turning things around.
And then her thesis project – the one she just proposed and defended – was scooped by a competing lab and published in a major journal. It was the last straw.
Jessica had three options:
- She could quit immediately, and have no degree to show for her three years of work.
- She could find some portion of the project to salvage as a Master’s thesis.
- She could start all over and try to find a new lab.
Amazingly, she chose Option 3.
Stephanie dreamed of becoming a scientist when she was a girl. She managed to maintain excellent grades while working in research labs throughout her college career. With her flawless CV, it came as no surprise when she was accepted into a top-tier pharmacology PhD program.
Four years later, Stephanie walked into her PI’s office to tell him she wanted to leave.
Dreams in the Daylight
This week on the show, Stephanie tells her story. Four years into her graduate training, she realized she was miserable and couldn’t see how her situation would get better if she stayed. So she had some hard conversations: with herself, with her family, and ultimately, with her graduate mentor and labmates.
Reactions were mixed, but she was able to finish her Master’s thesis and leave on good terms. Then it was time to find a job and a way to pursue all of her other passions and goals. She says it was the best decision she ever made.
Biomedical PhD programs have a completion rate near 50%, which means for every newly minted PhD, there’s a scientist with similar training but a different degree. Some leave with a master’s, and some much earlier, but it’s high time we talked about the many paths of graduate students, and how to support each individual’s choice.
This week we sampled Bad Penny Brown Ale from Big Boss Brewing Company. We’re still trying to decide whether the little people on the label are Penny’s murder victims.
And just in time for holiday giving, Stephanie makes some soap that WON’T give your loved ones cancer! And isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Check out RedMoutainGoodness.com and give the gift of goat!